DEAR Madam,

I write in response to the recent article “Transport issues lead to port protest”. DAERA state that there is no change in taking horses directly from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, following the end of EU-UK transition period on December 31st, 2020 and that guidance is available on the DAERA website.

The Welfare of Animals in Transport Regulation (EC) No1/2005 has been in legislation since 2007. This requires those who transport horses (and other vertebrates) as part of an economic activity to present a WIT2 Animal Transporters authorisation at Belfast Port. DAERA apply this Regulation to ALL horse transport, including amateur, recreational and hobby riders and parents travelling with children and ponies through Belfast Port.

DAERA maintain they have an established policy that transporting equines to shows, events or competition is a commercial activity. DAERA then apply their Single Animal Exemption policy to allow one horse with one adult (up to a maximum of four horses and four adults) to travel through the port. Neither the “established policy” nor the Single Animal Exemption are on the website and, when asked, DAERA cannot produce them. Interestingly, the DAFM exclude the transport of animals to or from shows or gymkhanas by its (sic) owner from the provisions of the Regulation.

Quite frankly, I find this a disgraceful way for a government department to carry on, to publish guidance, ignore it and then apply totally different policies without informing the public. The confusion and upset this has caused the equine community travelling to GB cannot be underestimated. We have to contend with Health Certificates and an over-abundance of administration to return to Northern Ireland. We do not need the anxiety of policies only known to port officials at the start of our journey.

Yours sincerely,

Shirley Anderson, Co Down